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Descartes epistemology

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Descartes epistemology

Descartes epistemology is known as foundationalism. In his Meditations, Descartes tries to discover certain, indubitable foundations for knowledge. He is searching for absolute certainty, and does this by subjecting everything to doubt. Through this he reaches the one thing he believes to be certain, his existence.

In Meditation One, Descartes describes his method of doubt. He subjects all of his beliefs to the strongest of doubts. He invokes the notion of an all-powerful, evil demon who could be deceiving him in the realm of sensory perception, in his very understanding of matter and even in the simplest cases of mathematics such as in the equation 2+3=5. The doubts may be obscure, but this is the strength of the method; the weakness of criteria for what makes a doubt reasonable means that almost anything can count as a doubt. Therefore whatever withstands doubt must be something that he considers absolutely certain.

In Meditation Two, Descartes finds the one indubitable principle that he has been seeking. He exists, at least when he thinks he exists. This view holds that Descartes asserts that he is thinking, he believes that 'whatever thinks must exist' and therefore that he logically concludes that he exists. Furthermore Descartes is convinced that he exists since there is a God deceiving him about his existence which could only be done if he did exist. "But there is a deceiver of supreme power and cunning who is deliberately and constantly deceiving me. In that case I too undoubtedly exist, if he is deceiving me; and let him deceive me as much as he can, he will never bring it about that I am nothing so long as I think that I am something. So after considering everything very thoroughly, I must finally conclude that this proposition, I am, I exist, is necessarily true whenever it is put forward by me or conceived in my mind." (p. 80). This leaves him with a problem. He can know his own existence, that he is a thinking thing and the contents of his consciousness, but how can any of this ever lead to any knowledge of anything outside of himself? The answer is that, by itself, it can't.

Descartes establishes that the human mind is better known than the human body. He states that no belief based on sense-perception is free from doubt. Thus he cant be certain about the existence of his hands, head or body in general since they are all perceived through his senses. Descartes tries to show that we know bodies through reason and not through senses.

To accomplish this he considers a physical piece of wax even though the evil demon might be deceiving him. At this point the piece ...

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